Winter is coming... For nearly three years my life has been underlined by one constant narrative; A Song of Ice and Fire - The five book epic fantasy series by George R. R. Martin.
The books are set in the fictitious continents of Westeros and Essos and begin by following the story of nine central characters with each chapter taking the point of view of a different character. As the story develops the storylines become further intwinned until we have a whopping 31 main protagonists by the end of the fifth book. The story is complicated, too complicated to get into but the three main themes are the battle for the crown of Westeros between a number of rivalling families. The 'Winter' which is coming from the North in the form the supernatural Others and the rise of an exiled dragon Queen (yes, real dragons) in the East set to return to Westeros to reclaim her throne.
This month I finished the fifth book and I can honestly say I have enjoyed it more than any other series I have read. The first person perspective makes the characterisation fantastic, you feel like you are under their skin. I also like the fact that we see things from the other side, often getting perspectives from some of the more negative characters but there is a blurred line between the good and bad, so you end up liking or feeling sympathy for some despite their actions. It paints a realistic portrait of human nature (amongst the battles and dragons and supernatural elements!) The storyline is complex, picking up characters which we haven't heard from ages and plunging us back into their story like we have never been away. This switching from person to person, carrying the story across the two continents also keeps it very fresh, exciting and fast paced despite the length.
I should touch on the supernatural element to the books. Yes, dragons have hatched for the first time in centuries and yes, from time to time dark magic is used by a variety of different sorcerers, but the real supernatural force lies to the North in the form of the Others who take over the bodies of the dead. Starting with just a folk tale in the first book, this element grows along with the books until the threat is very real and imminent. These supernatural themes to the book whilst central to the overall plot, take a back seat to the characters and I wouldn't be put of by them if you usually stay away from supernatural fiction. They add an extra dimension to the world of Westeros and stop the books from feeling like historical fiction. You really do believe in the world created.
Book five ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, a huge gaping chasm has opened up in my life. It's like finishing Breaking Bad all over again... When I started the series I assumed the five book tome was complete but oh no, Mr Martin has two further books planned. Here's the problem - it took five years to write the fifth book so I could be in for a long wait to see what happens when Winter finally arrives. I just hope the adaptation to hit TV series spurs him in to write faster or HBO will be knocking on his door for the next script!
The only score I can give these books is the maximum 5/5
During February I have also started three books which I will catch you up on next month:
On my phone I am reading The Seven Stars by Simon Leighton-Porter
On my iPad I am reading Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell (Book club)
In paperback I am reading City of Glass the third book in The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare